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Northwestern opens season with pair of dominating wins

by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)

Northwestern women's lacrosse showed why they are the defending national champions, taking down No. 14 Massachusetts, 16-4, on Friday and USC, 18-5, on Saturday to open the regular season.

The season was only 70 seconds old when the top-ranked Wildcats recorded their first goal, courtesy of returning national player of the year, Taylor Thornton. The senior netted another goal in the second half to finish the day with two scores.

NU held a 6-2 lead with a minute and a half to go before halftime, but the defending champs know only one speed: full. Christy Turner, Ali Cassera, and Amanda Macaluso each added a goal before half to extend the lead to 9-2.

Goalkeeper Bridget Bianco, making her first career start, recorded six saves against last year's second-ranked offensive team in the country.

NU returned to the field on Saturday to take on USC. The Trojans were making their Division I debut, a tough task against the defending Division I champions. The Cats welcomed them with an 18-5 rout, as 11 different players scored and junior Alyssa Leonard matched an NCAA record with 15 draw controls. NU's defense forced 15 turnovers.

As an added bonus, the Cats got to see former NU All-Americans Lindsey Munday and Hilary Bowen. Munday is now the Trojans' head coach and Bowen serves as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator.

The Cats will take a two-week break before their next match against No. 5 North Carolina on Feb. 22. The Tar Heels fell to No. 3 Florida in their first match of the season on Saturday.